The “next generation.” Who are they? Is it Gen X? The millennials? Gen Y or Z? Everyone uses this term “next gen” in different narratives… the elderly man sitting in the booth next to me at the diner last Tuesday is thinking to himself that I’m the next generation… while I sit there talking with an intern thinking that he’s the next generation… all the while he’s thinking that the middle school boy he’s investing in every Wednesday night at church is the next generation. So who is the “next generation”? The short answer: yes. The next generation is sitting in desks across the street at Central Middle. And yes, the next generation is trying to navigate college exams and finding enough money to pay for a cup of coffee at Starbucks (which is over $4.00 these days, ouch). And yes, I am the next generation, leaning into my responsibility to love and teach my daughter and our students about the beauty of following Jesus and the salvation He offers us. The next generation is all of us: together! WE woke up this morning and took in a fresh breath of Oklahoma air. WE are alive in Jesus, seeking to take bold steps of faith. Collectively, WE are the next generation. Each new day we are given is our opportunity to be the people of Jesus – the Jesus Generation. No one gets left behind or ignored because they are too old, too young, or anywhere in between. We each have a role to play, a responsibility to honor, a gift to offer. Our students do, our interns do, I do, and so do you!
FPCE has a magnificent legacy that has been written throughout the generations. The people of this church have stood in the gaps, they have reached across the aisle, they have donated, served, and prayed for one another. The old have nourished and provided for the young, and the young have brought life and energy to the old. These walls tell the stories and each classroom carries the reverberations of how each generation has loved and been loved in the Way of Jesus. There have been significant moments where one generation has made sacrifices for the other, where one generation has stood so the other could sit, and where one generation has knelt in prayer on behalf of the other, asking Jesus to rescue, redeem and restore. The student ministry of FPCE stands on the shoulders of each of those generations.
I have the privilege of leading and cheerleading this student ministry and I wake up excited to arrive at work each day and see what Jesus is doing! Our students are choosing to follow Jesus. They are choosing to identify with Jesus through baptism. They are choosing to shift the way they think and are asking Jesus to help them renew their minds with what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. And yes, they are wrestling. They have struggles. They are trying to navigate the messages of the world as they show up each week and hear the message of Jesus. Our students are being changed and transformed by the love and grace of Jesus, but Church I want you to know that our students need you. We are at a significant moment. This moment requires our full attention. This moment needs you, the previous “next generation”. Yes, there is so much to celebrate: New Life, Baptisms and Transformation. But there is so much about this moment that needs all of us to lean in. I recently read a quote by Andy Stanley, a pastor in Atlanta Georgia, where he was referring to this very moment. This moment where the generations must embrace one another and collectively be the “next generation” together. Andy posed this question and thought: “what is the faith of the next generation worth….? Everything.” There is a cost associated with choosing to take the message of Jesus to the next generation. That cost is not the same as compromise; we will not compromise the message of Jesus or what it looks like to follow Jesus. But there is a cost. It cost someone something to share the message of Jesus with you. Maybe it was their time, maybe it was a room in their home, maybe it was their food, maybe it was their reputation, or maybe it was their money. But I’m confident they would say that it was worth it to watch you surrender to Jesus! There is still a cost associated with reaching those that are coming behind us. I’m not entirely sure what that cost might be for you, I’m still asking God what it’s going to cost me. But I’m confident that it is worth it.
So “next generation” – whoever you are… Whether you are the “next generation” that reached me with the love and grace of Jesus, or you are the “next generation” that reached that “next generation”, or you don’t know what generation you are in: I want you to know that this moment needs you. This moment needs you to pray. To listen. To love. To show up. To show grace. To stand firm. To speak. To give. To sacrifice. To trust. I’m not going to sugarcoat it… it’s going to cost more than we think. But we won’t compromise. I believe that whatever the cost might be, seeing the student choose to follow Jesus is always worth it. This year, God has taught me that He is bigger than I thought He was! He’s better than I thought He was! And I’m committed to telling the next generation that! Lets stand together arm in arm, and I believe that we will see them rise up and follow Jesus. Whatever the cost, the faith of the next generation is worth it.
by: Brett Hardy, Assistant Director of Student Ministry